As a longtime radio broadcaster, I am very interested in any behavioral changes among potential listeners in relation to listening patterns and responses to new media. A study called The Bedroom Project has been of particular interest. It was a joint effort that took place in February 2007 between Jacobs Media and Arbitron to determine how young people are using technology. Jacobs Media is a large radio consulting firm. Arbitron is the longtime leader in market analysis and radio audience research in the United States.
The organizations decided that an ethnographic study using peers that were trained researchers to observe and interview others in their age group would provide valuable information. Thirty-one test subjects from diverse ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic states were included, ranging in age from 17 to 28. Research occurred in Columbus, Ohio and Los Angeles, California.
Details, including video interviews with the participants, may be found at http://www.thebedroomstudy.com/. Among the major findings were confirmation of the universal desire for iPods and mobile telephones and the dependence of young users upon such devices. Texting was vitally important and often preferred over in-person communication. As an old media, television was still of interest and the topic of considerable discussion during and after programs aired. DVR’s were widely praised. Social networking and video games consumed major amounts of time for most young people and often were activities that were linked together.
The issue tying media use among young people surrounded what Jacob’s Media referred to as CVC – Control, Variety, and Choice. Technologies that offered more of these options to consumers were those that they tended to gravitate toward more rapidly. Traditional media such as printed newspapers and much of radio held less appeal and were increasingly challenged to stay relevant.
It is an area that Rupert Murdoch, founder, Chairman, and CEO of News Corporation, addressed in a speech in April 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQSKRWXyFw8 at Georgetown University. He compared growing up with traditional forms of mass media and later providing the same with the challenges of dealing with the desire for individual choice and control today. The idea of CVC – though not referenced specifically – was reinforced in his comments. Murdoch emphasized that media groups must diversify geographically and by platform to make an impact today. He added that constant reassessment is a necessary component for any media organization.
The Bedroom Study and the Murdoch speech provide evidence for what seems, at face value, to make sense. People today – and young people in particular – are using media differently and for differing reasons than did their predecessors. A uses and gratifications study would likely support this idea as well. The issue is of interest to groups far more reaching than just broadcasters. Educators, sociologists, anthropologists, producers, innovators, entrepreneurs, etc. may all have a stake in what is happening now and what will happen into the future. Is a revolution underway? It sure seems like it.